ROBERT  PHILIP ("BOB" ) McDONALD.  B. 22.7.1872  D.1930.   Married  Sarah Catherina Botha. ("Aunt Polly").   B. 1882.  D 1957

Brother to: Donald 1863, Alexander 1865 and William 1866, who all died in childhood, and Hugh 1868, Annie 1870,  Ida 1874,  Kenneth 1876 (died infancy), Kathleen 1877 (called "Chicken"),  and James 1880 (died infancy).

See: The Family of Donald & Eliza McDonald.  By Mercy Murray:    " Donnie's second [surviving - NF] son, Robert Philip, went up to Rhodesia with his sister Annie Fletcher and her two children [ Kenneth and Hugh - NF], to assist her on that long and trying journey, and stayed on to settle up there.  First as assistant to his brothers-in-law who were surveyors, and  later as a cattle rancher. He married and had eight daughters."

Some photos of Bob McDonald can be seen in the Ida Fletcher Collection.

From  "By Coach To Bulawayo, 1895. By Mrs Annie A. Fletcher."  in "Experiences of Rhodesia's Pioneer Women" by Jeannie M Boggie.

"Our party consisted of my sister-in-law, mr brother, my two very small children (the younger barely four months old), myself, and some rough looking men. My sister-in-law, never a robust woman, was soon overcome by the hardships of the journey. I can never forget my brother's care and help at that time. He took charge of the elder boy, and I carried the baby on a pillow across my knees. I feel sure he was the youngest passenger to travel to Rhodesia by coach in the early days."  [A copy of this book is with the Colin_Mary Family. It came (?) from Mary's father, W. Thomlinson Walker]

Who could the sister- in-law have been, if not Polly? And if so, she must have become robust at some stage. (?)


"Mum thinks (not sure) that Bob and Polly may have been on Zimbele early on and amid a “scandal”  supposedly lost Zimbele to Pat Fletcher - maybe different people were involved in something else along those lines, I don't know."    Email from Wendy Nolan


Notes on  BOB McDONALD.  From Neil Fletcher.    

           The land below the house at Zimbili, in the bend of the river near the old mill, is called Bob’s Land. Possibly the oldest on the farm, and one of the most fertile and productive. It is mostly a heavy dark alluvial clay. I have understood that it was first cleared by Bob McDonald, probably about  1913, when Ida went to live on the farm permanently. Elwyn remembers some story that Bob was also at the farm to "babysit" his sister.

           A clump of marula trees was said by Peter to  be where Bob lived. It is on the west side  of a low greenstone ridge which points to, and runs out,  in the valley by his land, about a kilometre away. In my childhood there might have been a few bits of rusted enamelware lying around the site. But nothing else suggesting a former dwelling place. The locality belonged essentially to sikwehle. ….

          Peter always spoke well of Bob, and said that as children they were fond of him. He was friendly and easy going with kids.

          After growing up, I have become aware of a thread of  accusation over the treatment of Bob.

            Regarding "losing" Zimbile to Pat Fletcher. My understanding has been that Zimbile A subdivision was bought with finance that Ida inherited on the death of her father. The story is that Annie spent her inheritance on going to England (with Kenneth and Hugh, and Annie's cousin Bliss Fynn as a sort of governess) when she took them over to school in Eastbourne. The story is further that later on Annie wanted to be near her sister and so her side of the family acquired sudivision B, called the Bottom Farm, "Ara" by the blacks to this day (=RA). The name Drummond I had never heard used till the 1960's or thereabouts. Whether or not Zimbile B was in Fletcher & Espin, or in RA & P Fletcher, I do not know. It is just what I have always heard. The truth of the matter will probably never to known. If there was a scandal, I can only imagine that it might have arisen out of the McDonald siblings' inheritance. There is also a story that Bob was driven off one of the farms on which he was staying by RA who wanted to sell it, or something like that......  Perhaps more will come to light......

        I have difficulty in believing that Ida treated her brother badly. I feel the same about Pat. He lived most of his life out of doors, and never farmed. I dont think he thought of Zimbile as much more than as just another place where the wagons happened to be parked, and I doubt if it bothered him that at some stage his brother in law was similarly parked half a mile away. I do have a very vague feeling that Bob ended up living on another Fletcher (?) farm. I don't think  he died on Zimbile.

What I have heard is this:

          A friend, June Wesson, who for some time was on Battlefields Ranch, Bembesi, eventually worked at a boarding school at Karoi. She told us that she met an elderly woman there working as a matron who said she was Bob McDonalds daughter (?). She said that Bob McDonald had been done down/badly treated by his family/the Fletchers.

          About ten years or more ago I met a young man Malcolm Shaw working at ABJ Engineering in Bulawayo. He was an apprentice and at the completion of his apprenticeship  had been Patternmaker of the Year.  He told me  he had grown up to believe that his family had been badly treated by the Fletchers. He showed me some articles, letters etc linking him to the family. On the basis of these details he was Bob McDonalds great(?) grandson. He left pattermaking and worked for a miner (Roberts, his father in law) for a short while, before emigrating with his wife (Flick) to Australia.

        I have recently (2007) traced Malcolm Shaw in Australia. and forwarded to him scans of all photos I have of Bob McDonald.  I reminded him of  his telling me about Bob's treatment by the Fletchers, and he did not recall any detail. In fact he said that when in Bulawayo he had hardly even heard of Bob, but that when he had incidentally told his father that he had met a Fletcher, his father had said he believed Bob had been badly treated by them, or something like that.   I believe his father and brother are still (?) in Zimbabwe. His father is in the lowveld/Triangle??



Bob's second daughter Ida Roxina (d. 1966)  married John Louw Bester,  to the consternation of the Fletchers, who thought Louw was a scoundrel, particularly of the poaching sort. My friend Arthur Gower who was somehow related to Louw thought he was an excellent fellow of the poaching sort, and spoke of the many adventures they had together when Arthur was a youngster.


Dear Malcolm

Here are two photos of Bob McDonald belonging to his sister, my grandmother. She died 1955. Bob died 1930 I think.
Here are also some McDonald Family tree stuff. The latter generations are are full of blanks.
Could you let me have as much information about his life as you are able to find from your family. Also details about his having been badly treated by the Fletchers.
I am writing a piece about him and will let you know when it is available.
You said your father and brother might be able to provide information. It would be very nice if you could fill out the family tree from where it ends in the stuff attached. We would like to put it in the database.
Brian Q has gone back. He spent a bit of a leisurely time here mostly with the grandchildren. Dave's son won the under 10's 100 metres nationals by a big margin, so that pleased him.
How are things with you? I didnt ask you where you were living when we spoke.
Best wishes
Neil Fletcher

From: Shaw Thing Cabinets <>
To: Neil Fletcher
 Monday, June 11, 2007

Hi Neil

Sorry its taken so long to reply...been busy running my own business.But anyway the family tree thank you for sending the photos and documents. The photos of Bob Macdonald my great grand father, I had never seen before. I have only 1 photo of him and family which I will send to you.There are only 5 sisters have no idea who's who.With regards to Bob he was never mentioned in our family.  I can vaguely remember my Gran Irene going to a pioneer meeting / celebration.When I have a little more time I will fill in the blanks on the family tree you sent me.

Regards Malcolm and Family


Hello Malcolm
Thanks for the email.
Suddenly realise I dont know where abouts in Aus you are.
I have one or two more photos of Bob perhaps - will sent it/them on
Please send the photo you mentioned as soon as you can. I
Do you mind if I put your email/s on the website bulletin board?

Annette Fletcher's recollections.

[Annette visited us in Nannup and told me the following in Sept. 2007.  -  N.F.]

She visited Aunt Polly in Bulawayo in 1954.  Annette was going to town with Anne+ newly born, and didnt know where she would be able to breastfeed her. It was suggested she went to Aunt Polly's house in Fife Street,  Bulawayo, which she did. Polly was living in one of those old Byo small houses. Annette was a bit vague about its exact location, but thought it was possibly on the Matopos side of Haddon & Sly.

Annette thought the suggestion she went to Aunt Polly was made by Bessie.  When I asked her if it might have come from Ida, she thought it was a possibility.  Annette did not sense any family ill feeling.  While she was at Aunt Polly she met her daughter Pamela Wade.

Annette said she heard that Polly had lived very simply with Bob. "She gave birth in a hut with just a kudu skin for a door". (ex Bessie??)

When yHugh and Annette left the country, one of the places they lived was a farm The Fort, near Grahamstown, in the 1980's.

 It was owned by Ted Birch, a friend  of Annette's from her youth in Graaff-Reinet. Through Ted they met his cousin Des, and his wife Stella,  Polly's daughter.  Stella realised the connection with the Fletchers. She was very friendly, and subsequently when Hugh and Annette went on a caravan trip to Natal Stella managed to find them at a caravan park.  They also visited her at her house.


From: Danae Lambert-Porter

21 January 2008
I did once see the name Polly in your archive - and now I cannot find it. I have never been able to find out who she was, Boo and Johne equally ignorant. When Ben lived in Essexvale I can remember going to visit Aunt Polly's house - on Coega Farm (?). I was pretty little but the first time I went I remember it was beautiful. It was an old stone (I think) farmhouse, vacant for decades so it was a semi ruin - very romantic!, but the most impressive thing was a massive bouganvillea next to the verandah, with a trunk like tree, in full bloom! Who was she - a Fletcher spinster, married to a F, have any children?........

22 January 2008

Re Aunt Polly. I think I went to her house twice - about 1961/2 - but she was 'late' as far as I was aware! . The house was literally a ruin but a place of such fantasy for a little girl, 7ish years old! - specially the bouganvillea. I can't be sure which farm the house was on but in my mind I think it was Coega - Johne would surely know. Ben seemed alright - I mean I don't remember him crying, cursing or anything. It was very interesting to read what you have managed to piece together - I was never able to find out where she belonged in the family - but the name Aunt Polly - and her ruined house - had such a sense of mystery and excitement. I don't recall the name Uncle Bob ever popping up - and it was always referred to as Aunt Polly's house!


From JP. 4 Feb '08

2. Polly's house was on Kogha.  3. North boundary was Bonnybrooke.South boundary was Indutywa and Beyhur. East boundary was Infiningwe.
West boundary was Lancaster and Kildare. 6159 acres.

4. Kogha was jointly owned by RA and Pat.

5. Before RA's death, Ben and Peter got together and decided that the status quo was impracticable and they prevailed upon Ida Eliza and RA to clear it up, who agreed, hence the enclosed letter dated 18th October, 1950. I have a file of the legal documents here that cover it, but believe the RA letter to be the most explicit. [insert hyperlink]







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